Research on inequalities

Multidimensional inequalities can slow a country’s development: they erode well-being, slow the attenuation of poverty, lead to social and political instability, and over the long term they can cause weaker growth. For as long as high levels of inequality persist, development assistance — and thus of some of AFD’s programs — will have only a limited reach. We must thus work to reduce inequalities, but to do so we need to better understand their causes and effects.
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AFD's research on inequalities
The share of the world’s income earned by the poorest 50% of the global population. Meanwhile, the richest 10% currently hold a 52% share
Women’s share of total wage income
The share of all CO2 emissions produced by the top 10% of emitters, while the share of the bottom 50% is only 12% of total emissions
  • Overlapping inequalities

    AFD researches the various dimensions of inequality as a concept and the many issues they imply. Our studies focus on such issues as inequalities in income and opportunities, vulnerability, poverty, and social mobility. They shed light on the dynamics of society, the role of public policies, and their interactions with other global challenges such as climate change.

    At AFD, research projects seek to improve our understanding of the relationship between income inequality and fiscal policy. Fiscal policies, through their public transfers and spending, are in fact one of the essential tools available to governments for reducing inequalities. One aim of AFD studies is thus to make data available to produce estimates of income inequality before and after taxes. Such data make it possible to analyze the distribution of macro-economic growth and to obtain a more accurate measurement of inequalities and of how they are perceived and redistributed.

    AFD’s studies are also based on the premise that inequalities, climate, and sustainability are closely linked. With this in mind, our research focuses on links with concepts such as just transition and energy poverty, with the goal of understanding how reduction of inequalities will help fight climate change.

    AFD research also studies the relationship between inequalities and social dynamics. For this purpose, various research projects are carried out to better understand the significance of how inequalities are perceived and to reach a more detailed analysis of the dynamics specific to the middle classes, in terms of cohesion and social mobility.

    Read also: Tackling inequality will break the gridlock on what to do about climate change

  • Tools and methods to create dialog

    Our research uses specific tools and methods to better analyze inequalities, allowing us to formulate public policy recommendations and development strategies to deal with them. 

    Various tools and methodologies have been developed and/or used in AFD’s research projects, with the goal of strengthening public policy dialog in our partner countries. Some examples:

    • Inequalities Diagnostics: a tool developed jointly with the African Centre of Excellence for Inequality Research (ACEIR). This tool aids in reporting on the state of multidimensional inequalities in a country by using available data. It informs policymakers about what priorities to establish to reduce inequalities. 
    • Fiscal Incidence Analysis: a tool developed by the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Institute, to analyze the redistributive impact of budget and fiscal policies. This tool is currently being extended to new countries and updated in countries where it is already used. It identifies the most effective public policies to reduce poverty and inequality, together with partner governments.
    • A methodology to assess distributional impact of development cooperation projects on inequality reduction, developed by Mario Negre, Christian Morabito and Miguel Nino-Zarazua.
    • The Multidimensional Inequality Framework: a methodology developed by Oxfam to analyze the multidimensional causes and aspects of inequalities according to given contexts. This methodology is based on Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach.

  • A dedicated research fund

    AFD and the European Union have each made reducing inequalities one of their priorities. This shared goal led the two institutions to start working together on reducing inequalities, by establishing the EU-AFD Research Facility on Inequalities in 2017.

    During the first phase of this facility (2017-2020), 22 research projects in 32 countries were carried out to better understand socio-economic inequalities and their determinants, effects, and dynamics. The more than 100 papers and policy briefs published not only helped fuel academic discussions, but also initiated exchanges at national level on the theme of inequalities in those countries.

    Following the success of this first phase, an extension of the EU-AFD Research Facility on Inequalities was launched in 2021. This new phase focuses on helping to draw up policies to reduce inequalities in four partner countries: South Africa, Colombia, Indonesia, and Mexico.

    Over the long term, this program based on research and capacity building will enable partner countries and development operators to grasp a better understanding of the dynamics behind inequalities and then develop public policies to better respond to them.

  • Events

    AFD organizes various types of events on the topic of inequalities, with the goal of disseminating our research findings and putting the issue of reducing inequalities at the top of the international agenda:

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